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The Right Engine

Biggest remanufacturer in the U.S. also does engines for classics and restorations

Hib Halverson - March 22, 2012 10:00 AM

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This Gen 1 Chevrolet small-block V-8 is a classic 327/350 out of a ’68 Corvette. The re-assembly is nearly complete. Following that, the engine will get a repainting with the proper “Chevy Orange” paint.

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At the Authentic Custom department, engines which have their serial numbers and ID codes stamped on a head deck, like this 327 Chevy, get a special block decking procedure that leaves the all-important numbers untouched.

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This 320 cubic-inch Packard straight eight is two pieces, a cylinder block of cast iron and a crankcase of cast aluminum – pretty advanced stuff for a production passenger car engine of the early 1930s.

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Authentic Custom Drivetrains department head, Alex Ernst, with the crankshaft from the same Packard. Ernst tells us that all the crankshafts, Packard, Chevy, Willys Overland or whatever, get finished to the same surface quality and dimensional tolerance as the NASCAR and ARCA Jasper-built engines.

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A pair of heads from a legendary Chrysler 354ci “early Hemi” used in various Chryslers of the mid-to-late-’50s.

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Ready for final assembly is this small-block Ford. Note the labels on the boxes. Name brand parts are used in engines restored by Jasper Authentic Custom Drivetrains.

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One example of a Jasper Authentic Custom product is this 401ci “Nailhead” Buick V-8, which was used from 1959 to 1966. But, hey, guys – what’s with the yellow plug wires?

Image: Jasper Engines & Transmissions

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This Pontiac with Tri-Power was done by Authentic Customs for a restoration customer.

Image: Jasper Engines & Transmissions

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Jasper associate Allan Heeke carefully assembles a set of Ford 351 Windsor heads.

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Gene Baker, a Jasper associate for over 30 years, prepares a Gen V big-block Chevy Performance marine engine cylinder case for align boring.

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Some Jasper Performance Engines are sold as what some enthusiasts might call “long blocks,” without an intake manifold, carburetor or a distributor; however, those parts are available as options. This particular Class II 350 Chevy has an optional Edelbrock Performer RPM intake and an MSD billet HEI distributor.

Image: Jasper Engines & Transmissions

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A Jasper Transmissions, Class 1, Hydra-matic 4L60 (aka Turbo Hydra-Matic 700R4).

Image: Jasper Engines & Transmissions

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So you blew up your engine, or maybe it just needs to be rebuilt after a lot of miles. Possibly, you’re doing a restoration and the engine is part of your project.

In any event, you have several ways to go. You can take the car to a shop and let them deal with it (you just write the check), pull the motor and overhaul it yourself, or split the difference – get the engine out yourself and ship it to a pro for rebuilding.

If you pick number three, you have everything from small shops to large remanufacturers from which to choose. In Auto Enthusiast, small- and medium-sized engine builders get a fair amount of coverage in our build-up articles and car features, so readers ought to be familiar with that part of the market, but what about the larger engine remanufacturers? No, we’re not talking about the cheap rebuilds like you might find on eBay – the ones with price as their sole selling point. Concerned with high-performance or restoration accuracy, we avoid them like the plague.

Jasper Engines & Transmissions of Jasper, Indiana, is North America’s largest remanufacturer of automotive and marine engines, transmissions and rear drive axles. In business since 1942, Jasper doesn’t sell to the low-end of the market or on eBay. It sells high-quality products mainly through a nationwide dealer network. Of interest to AE readers, Jasper has a “custom shop” which specializes in remanufacture of classic and collector car engines.

Jasper Authentic Custom Drivetrains offers a unique engine “reman” service, which combines refurbishing of reusable parts through precision machine work, premium replacement parts, assembly by hand, factory reproduction engine painting, post-reman testing, extensive documentation and online tracking of each customer’s engine. Jasper’s 69 years of experience, state-of-art remanufacturing technology and its associates’ hard work and dedication result in some of the better collector car engine rebuilds available.

Last September, at the invitation of Mike Pfau, Jasper’s director of marketing, Auto Enthusiast visited the Authentic Custom Drivetrains department. On the second floor of Jasper’s main plant, we found a spacious facility with a wide variety of collector car engines undergoing the “reman” process. In the tear-down area was a Ford 351W. In the center of the room, just completed and ready for painting, was an L79, 327 out of a 1968 Corvette. Being set up for align boring was a big-block Chevy. In the cylinder head assembly area was a pair small-block Ford heads, along with a set from a late-’50s, 354-inch Chrysler Hemi. Sitting on a stand, waiting for new bearings, was a massive, 1930 Packard engine block. Over on the surfacing machine was a block from an L-134 four-cylinder, flathead used in Willys Jeeps from 1941 to 1953. This diversity speaks volumes about the Authentic Custom department’s wide range of engine experience.

Another standout issue is technology. Because Jasper Engines & Transmissions is a high-volume remanufacturer, the Authentic Custom department can apply the precision machining processes and stringent quality controls common in the premium, high-volume engine remanufacturing process. Over in a corner was a Rottler surfacing machine. Blocks are honed with Sunnen automated honing machines. Valve seat refinishing is done on Serdi Seat and Guide machines. All of these pieces of equipment are state-of-art and among the best in the industry.

At one time, Jasper was a supplier to NASCAR and ARCA race teams, and certain aspects of race engine machine work and assembly are applied to the collector car engine work done in the Authentic Custom department. For example, crankshaft machining is to the finish quality and dimensional tolerance typical of race engines. Torque-plate honing is available to enhance cylinder roundness and ring seal. Three-angle, valve seat machining is used along with vacuum checking to validate the valve sealing. Before shipping, about 90 percent of the engines are run on a test stand and the rest are spin-tested. An option is dynamometer testing under load.

Another option with Authentic Custom engines is a documentation package. The customer receives bills-of-material, specifications, in-process information and, if optional dyno testing is ordered, dyno run sheets. The customer also receives a “scrapbook” of photos illustrating the work done to the engine. Additional information about the engine is available via a password-protected page on Jasper’s website, and the customer can also opt for periodic progress reports by e-mail.

Key to the success of this program are Jasper associates. All are experienced craftspeople. Some have been working for Jasper for over 25 years and one person we met had been there more than 40. Jasper Engines & Transmissions is 100 percent associate-owned, so everyone, from the CEO on down, has “some skin in the game” when it comes to quality.

Jasper’s Authentic Custom Drivetrain division has a second product line of interest to enthusiasts, its “Performance Engines”. They differ from the collector and classic car engines in that they don’t rely on a customer-supplied core nor are they “numbers-matching”; the casting dates on blocks and heads might not correlate or the cylinder heads might be from a different model year, or aftermarket performance parts might replace O.E. pieces.

The Performance engines are generally available in three grades: Class 1, Stock Performance and Class 2. Class 1 engines are Jasper’s standard, remanufactured but with a slightly more aggressive, aftermarket camshaft replacing the O.E. cam profile. Class 1s typically produce 10 percent more horsepower than stock.

The next step up is a “Stock Performance” engine. “Stock” is a bit of a misnomer because these engines have a camshaft profile more aggressive than that in a Class 1, along with aftermarket hypereutectic pistons and aftermarket cast iron, high-performance cylinder heads. The stock performance engine is marketed as Jasper’s “... most economical horsepower build.”

Class 2 engines are described as having “... serious horsepower for specific applications.” Where available, they get four-bolt main bearing blocks. They also receive special block machining, such as align boring, square-decking and balancing of the rotating assembly. They are fitted with hypereutectic pistons and moly-filled top rings and an even more aggressive camshaft driven by a double row timing set. Aftermarket high-compression heads, fitted with high-performance valves and higher-tension valve springs, are installed. Class 2 engine are assembled with premium fasteners, such as main cap bolts, rod bolts and head bolts.

There is a Class 3, but currently it’s only offered as a Gen 1 small-block Chevy. It has all the features of Class 2 plus a higher compression ratio and a camshaft with more lift and duration. There are two Class 3 small-blocks: a 350, with 400hp at 5,600 rpm, and a 383, with 420hp at 5,500 rpm. (Both numbers are SAE-corrected.)

Jasper Performance Engines are available in many versions: Chevy big-block, Chevy Gen 1, Gen 1E and Gen 2 small-blocks, Pontiac, Ford 351W, FE-series 390 and 385-series 460, Chrysler small-blocks and Chrysler RB-series big-blocks.

While Jasper’s Authentic Custom and Performance Engines were the prime focus of this article, the company’s highest volume product line is remanufactured automatic transmissions. In addition to performance engines, the company also offers enhanced-performance automatic transmissions in two configurations: Class I and Class II.

Class I automatics are a standard Jasper remanufactured transmission upgraded with the latest versions of key parts such as front pump, front sun gear, sprags and sealing rings along with an increased number of plates in clutch packs and a “shift kit”. Class II automatics have all the Class 1 enhancements, along with a high-stall torque converter, a deep sump aluminum pan and a more aggressive shift kit.

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